Friday, April 22, 2022
I learned earlier today that we had lost a great one, my friend, colleague, and mentor Michael Olivas. It is with a profound sense of loss that I reflect on how much he has meant to me personally (including to my family, who he always asked about individually by name) as well as professionally. Michael followed by son Tomas's Little League baseball career and asked for annual updates at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, mentored me through tenure, and helped me land the deanship at UC Davis (by calling the Chancellor and putting in a good word).
Michael was a wonderful scholar, including but not limited to immigration law. He once was this blog's Immigration Professor of the Year. The book Law Professor and Accidental Historian: The Scholarship of Michael A. Olivas (Editor Ediberto Román, 2017) brought together a group of scholars to analyze Michael's path-breaking scholarship. The publisher encapsulates the anthology as follows:
"Law Professor and Accidental Historian is a timely and important reader addressing many of the most hotly debated domestic policy issues of our times—immigration policy, education law, and diversity. Specifically, this book examines the works of one of the country's leading scholars—Professor Michael A. Olivas. Many of the academy's most respected immigration, civil rights, legal history, and education law scholars agreed to partake in this important venture, and have contributed provocative and exquisite chapters covering these cutting-edge issues. Each chapter interestingly demonstrates that Olivas's works are not only thoughtful, brilliantly written, and thoroughly researched, but almost every Olivas article examined has an uncanny ability to predict issues that policy-makers failed to consider. Indeed, in several examples, the book highlights ongoing societal struggles on issues Professor Olivas had warned of long before they came into being. Perhaps with this book, our nation's policy-makers will more readily read and listen closely to Olivas's sagacious advice and prophetic predictions." (bold added).
In an introduction to Accidental Historian, I offered some thoughts on how much Michael had done for so many, myself included. Here is that intro. Download Law Professor and Accidental Historian
Michael also worked for change. At great personal cost, he created the "Dirty Dozen" law schools without a Latina/o on the faculty. Michael recruited many Latina/os into legal academia. He mentored, advised, read drafts of articles, and much more for countless professors of color (myself included). Among many other service activities, Olivas helped lead an effort to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of immigration law professors in the Supreme Court in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case. As he was in that case, Olivas in my view was on the right side of the trajectory of history.
There no doubt will be many stirring tributes to Professor Michael Olivas in coming days. Many will miss him immensely. I sure will miss my guiding light and guardian angel. RIP Michael Olivas.